Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan spent part of his childhood living in Southern California and has an appreciation for how things are done there, especially when it comes to building hockey teams. Ryan said he sees a lot of similarities between the 2016-17 Senators and the Los Angeles Kings teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.
In June, they will have something else in common: Ryan's Senators will join them as Stanley Cup champions.
Although the Senators don't have the offensive talent of the Kings, they do have a similar commitment to being strong on the forecheck and tough to get past in the neutral zone.
"We're a grinding team," Ryan said. "We're big. We got some speed in some of the big guys as well. You look at L.A., a team that's won two of the last five or six, I think we've got a lot of build like that. We're also extremely good at frustrating teams, getting them off their games because we play a patient and boring game. Maybe at times an opportunistic game. We wait for our opportunities and we rely on the system to get us to the third period and then score there and it's worked all year and it's driven teams crazy.
"That's had a lot to do with the success we've been having."
That patient game can best be seen in the way the Senators have improved defensively. They're allowing 2.56 goals per game, down from 2.94 last season. And Craig Anderson has had a lot to do with that. Anderson has persevered through the cancer diagnosis of his wife to have one of the best seasons of his NHL career.
Although Ottawa isn't scoring as much, it's a fair tradeoff after they averaged 2.80 goals per game last season and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Senators do have offensively talented players, such as Erik Karlsson, who leads them in points and assists. It's the fourth straight season he's led the Senators in points.
Karlsson has a number of talented forwards that he can get the puck to. Center Kyle Turris leads the Senators with 27 goals, a career NHL high. Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone also each have more than 20 goals. Derick Brassard has had a subpar regular season but is a proven playoff performer, with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 59 career games. And although Ryan has 13 goals in 62 games, he's a four-time 30-goal scorer.
It will be fitting to see the Stanley Cup spend its 125th birthday in the city where it was born when the Senators claim hockey's ultimate prize.
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